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Court denies murder accused Mark Lifman’s request to travel abroad

Court denies murder accused Mark Lifman’s request to travel abroad
Murder accused Mark Lifman at the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on 21 October 2022. Lifman and his co-accused face charges in connection with the murder of ‘Steroid King’ Brian Wainstein. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais)

Cape Town businessman Mark Lifman, who faces serious charges including murder, told the Western Cape High Court he would return to stand trial if allowed to travel to Turkey and Dubai for business. The court said his word wasn’t enough.

Murder accused Mark Lifman’s wings were clipped when the Western Cape High Court denied his request to have his passport returned so that he could fly to Turkey, Dubai, China and Hong Kong to explore business opportunities.

Judge James Lekhuleni dismissed Lifman’s application on Monday, 27 November and underlined that the State was attempting to extradite another accused to South Africa to face charges with Lifman. This person, Kishor Naidoo, is based in Turkey, where Lifman wanted to travel. According to the judgment, there are reasons to assume that Lifman may wish to exploit this fact.

Along with alleged Sexy Boys gang boss Jerome Booysen and 13 other co-accused, including police sergeant Wayne Henderson, Lifman is facing a slew of charges, including the 2017 murder of “steroid king” Brian Wainstein, several counts of conspiracy to murder, and contraventions of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

lifman wainstein

‘Steroid King’ Brian Wainstein. (Photo: Interpol)

Lifman, Booysen and former Cape Town bouncer and alleged underworld figure André Naude are out on R100,000 bail. Naidoo (also known as Kamaal), who was previously based in Cape Town, is the subject of an Interpol red notice.

In August 2017, Wainstein, also known as the steroid king, was killed at his Constantia home in Cape Town. Lifman, Booysen and the late William “Red” Stevens were arrested in connection with the murder in December 2020.

Stevens, widely known as one of the Western Cape’s most seasoned 27s gang members, was killed in a shooting in Cape Town in February 2021.

Lifman application

Lifman’s application essentially requested that his bail conditions, which were imposed on him on 22 December 2020, be amended to require him to deposit an additional R150,000 in cash and have his passport returned to him by the investigating officer.

He also asked for an order allowing him to apply for a new passport. Lifman said he wants to explore business opportunities in Turkey, Dubai, China and Hong Kong.

The State strongly objected to his application, maintaining that if Lifman was released on bail, he would evade his trial.

Lifman filed a similar application in November 2021, requesting the return of his passport so that he could travel to Turkey and other countries for work.

At that time, Lifman claimed he had been offered a consulting position in Turkey and that he would be required to travel extensively despite being based in Turkey.

This request was declined by Western Cape High Court acting judge Adrian Montzinger. Lifman subsequently failed to persuade the Supreme Court of Appeal to grant him leave to appeal against the ruling.

Lifman then applied to change his bail conditions two years later, citing “new” facts. Lifman claimed there would be an excessive delay before the trial against him began, and that the case was originally scheduled for hearing from 28 February to 24 March 2022.

Lifman also said he had instructed a private digital forensic expert to examine and analyse all phone data which the State is using against him to determine his physical whereabouts during the dates specified in the indictment.

While the State believes it has a strong case against Lifman, he believes he will be able to challenge the evidence and demonstrate that he is not guilty of the charges against him.

State’s objection

Opposing Lifman’s latest application, state prosecutor Mervyn Menigo submitted that if Lifman should abscond after being allowed to travel internationally, this would result in substantial prejudice to the State and its witnesses, some of whom are being kept under protective arrangements at significant cost to the State. 

Menigo reiterated that if the applicant absconds, the delay will prejudice his co-accused’s rights to a speedy trial.

“The poor level of cooperation between Turkey and Dubai, two of the destinations listed by Lifman in his application, are such that it could be a lengthy procedure to ensure his extradition, with no guarantee of success, as is evidenced by the fact that the Turkish authorities offered no genuine assistance in returning the wanted suspect in this matter – one Mr Kishor Naidoo,” Menigo added.

The State also referred to the failed attempt to extradite the Gupta brothers from Dubai.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Guptas are gone. No one is to blame, everyone did their best. The end

‘His say-so not enough’

In his judgment, Judge Lekhuleni said that a trial date of 24 April 2024 had been set. 

“In my view, there can be no doubt that this matter will take some time to be finalised. There are 15 accused charged together with Lifman. The 15 accused are facing various counts totalling 38. This matter has been fast-tracked. A judge has been allocated for this matter, and the trial date has been set. All counsels have confirmed their availability to commence with the trial in the second term of 2024,” said Lekhuleni.

“Crucially, Lifman contends that his passport be returned to him and that he will stand trial and won’t abscond. It bears emphasis that Lifman ipsi dixit (meaning he said it) that he will stand trial is not enough. 

“His say-so is certainly not a cognisable indication that he will not abscond and will return to the country and stand trial if his conditions were to be amended.”

In the present matter, Lekhuleni added, the court had been informed there was another accused that the State was struggling to extradite to face charges with Lifman. 

“That person is based in Turkey, where the applicant intends to travel. In my view, there are reasons to believe that the applicant may want to take advantage of this fact.

“As correctly pointed out by Mr Menigo, Lifman alleges that he wishes to explore business opportunities in the countries mentioned, without providing any detail on the nature of the prejudice he would suffer should he be denied these opportunities,” the judgment reads.

Lekhuleni pointed out that Lifman and his co-accused were facing serious charges, including one of murder, and that a conviction on this charge alone could lead to a sentence of life imprisonment.

“Although the accused has previously adhered to his bail conditions by attending court without fail, I believe that the severity of the charges levelled against him, and the potential sentence he may face if convicted, could tempt him to abscond,” the judgment reads. DM

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